A bizarre international hoax about schoolchildren using cat litter trays has surfaced in a Queensland city.
According to claims on social media, an unnamed high school in Cairns has recently installed a giant litter tray for students who self-identify as cats.
This is false. The state’s Department of Education, the Catholic Education Diocese of Cairns and representatives from several non-Catholic independent schools said the claim is baseless.
It is the latest in a long line of baseless rumours about schools installing human litter trays. Similar false claims have circulated in other countries since 2021.
“One of the guys that I work with, his Mum works at a high school in Cairns, and apparently they have just installed a toilet for cats, for children,” a man in the video says (video mark 11m14s).
“They put big, huge, human kitty litter boxes in there.”
The claims are typically based on comments attributed to a third party, such as an unnamed parent or teacher, and are not supported by any photographic evidence of the alleged facilities.
In October 2022, NBC News reported that “at least 20” conservative candidates and elected officials in the US had claimed schools were placing litter boxes on campus or taking other measures to accommodate students who identify as cats.
However, NBC News found that “every school district that has been named by those 20 politicians said either to NBC News or in public statements that these claims are untrue”.
In 2022, US podcaster Joe Rogan similarly claimed a human litter tray had been installed at a school where his friend’s wife worked as a teacher.
He later walked back the claim after admitting the teacher no longer worked at the school and he was unable to verify the rumour.
AAP FactCheck could not find any instances of such claims being confirmed by school authorities or credible independent sources, either in Australia or anywhere else.
A spokesman for Queensland’s Department of Education told AAP FactCheck in an email that the claim about the unnamed Cairns school was “absolutely false”.
“No state schools in Queensland have installed human-size cat litter trays for students who identify as cats,” the spokesman said in an email.
The Catholic Education Diocese of Cairns, which oversees 30 schools in the area, told AAP FactCheck the claim does not relate to any of its institutions.
AAP FactCheck additionally spoke to several non-Catholic independent schools in the area. None were even aware of the rumour.
The alleged giant litter tray in Cairns has not been mentioned by any reputable news outlet and there is no credible evidence on social media.
Claims about litter boxes in school bathrooms often cite a youth subculture known as ‘furries’ – though the person who made the claim in question specifically said in the video that he was not referring to furries.
The term ‘furries’ describes a community of people who identify with an anthropomorphised animal character they adopt as their ‘fursona’. Some furries play out the fantasy by dressing up in animal costumes or wearing furry ears or paws.
Sharon Roberts, a Canadian academic who studies the furries subculture, said in November 2022 that rumours about participants using litter trays were ill-founded.
“Is it possible that somewhere someone has asked for a litter box? Anything is possible and I can’t disprove a negative,” Dr Roberts wrote in an article published by The Conversation.
“But are litter boxes an integral part of the furry fandom? We’ve never observed litter boxes at any of the dozens of furry conventions we’ve attended internationally.”
The claim that a high school in Cairns has installed a giant litter tray for students who identify as cats is false.
The claim is the latest in a long line of unsubstantiated rumours about young people identifying as cats and using litter trays in school bathrooms.
Queensland’s Department of Education said the rumour is false, as did the Catholic Education Diocese of Cairns and representatives from several non-Catholic independent schools.
Additionally, AAP FactCheck could find no credible evidence in the traditional news media or on social media.
False – The claim is inaccurate.